Monday, April 7, 2008

A Cooks Best Friend

One of the most important and easiest ways to improve the results of your cooking is to use fresh herbs. Fresh herbs will add an aromatic quality to any dish that dried herbs can only mimic. Fresh herbs added to a salad will transform an ordinary salad into a fresh burst of spring. If you purchase fresh herbs from the grocery store, you know they are expensive and usually won’t last very long in the refrigerator. If you do a lot of cooking, you probably find yourself running to the store every time a recipe calls for an herb you don’t have. So spring brings an exciting time for people who love to cook. The time to plant your herb garden.

Planting your own herb garden will supply you with the freshest herbs at your fingertips throughout the year. Herb gardens require little space, you can plant a full array of herbs in pots around your deck or in a window box outside your kitchen. Whether you have actual garden space or are planting in pots, start with herbs you use frequently; rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, chives, cilantro and parsley. Herbs are very easy to plant and can be mixed together in the same pot. Simply follow planting instructions on the temporary planter boxes. Select your herbs relative to the herbs you use most. I usually plant rosemary, basil and cilantro in separate pots where they will grow larger, as I use these herbs constantly.

As with all plants, some herbs are hardier than others. Thyme, oregano, rosemary and parsley grow without much intervention. Mint will grow like a weed and can take over your garden if allowed to. I’ve found that cilantro and basil are more finicky and require more attention. Other herbs that are wonderful to grow and have on hand are marjoram, sage, dill, fennel, chives, and lavender. Once you’ve grown your own herbs there’s really no substitution. It’s one of those rare and wonderful experiences that requires little effort and gives back satisfying and delicious rewards throughout the year.

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